South Park Season 8 (TV DVD)
Well, I've written about The Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy, guess it's time to start adding South Park to the Quickies.
Episodes can be a bit hit or miss, but when it connects it really knocks it out of the park as seen with "Passion of the Jew" and the delightful "Woodland Critter Christmas." And after that shitshow that was the 2016 election, something about the "Every election in history has been between a giant douche and turd sandwich" episode struck a chord with me.
I don't know what to think of the the steroid episode; I'll give it the "using steroids is like pretending to be handicapped to win the Special Olympics" line, but maybe it just didn't do much for me because Jimmy isn't exactly my favorite South Park character. The one with the pre-school bully and crippled teacher was probably the worst episode on the set, the dance competition episode was a load of MEH, and sometimes the show gets carried away with shock humor porn that it forgets what message it was trying to make as seen in the end of "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset".
Also, it would have been nice if the packaging hadn't spoiled the first plot twist of "Woodland Critter Christmas", but at least it has plenty more tricks up its sleeve for the viewer and a gloriously over the top finale.
Jingo (Terry Pratchett)
This book was originally published in 1997 and it's amazing how relevant it is twenty years later.
After a useless scrap of land rises from the sea directly between Ankh-Morpork and the Middle Eastern-inspired Klatch, both sides claim ownership of the island which sparks a lot of, well, jingoism and Ankh-Morporkians itching for a war with them darn blasted Klatchian barbarians to prove who's the better civilization once and for all. The main theme of the book is the dehumanizing effect war and jingoism have, when in fact most people in the world have lives they'd rather be living than spending fighting a war.
Look, I'm sorry to keep bringing up politics this month, I just happened to run into a lot of things that were applicable to the current political atmosphere. But while I have a feeling Pratchett had the 90's Iraq War in mind while writing this (though I read it pulls inspiration from Lawrence of Arabaia, but I'm a scrub that hasn't seen that movie so any allusions to it are over my head), it's hard not to think of #MAGA and Muslim Bans while reading it in 2017. Also, while I was reading I used sticky arrows to note important, profound, or just plain funny sentences. One of the lines I marked was Vimes telling Vetinari "I can't make up facts that don't exist, sir." Bet you can't guess why!
Divorced of polital relvancy, there's still plenty to like about this book. The Night Watch is investigating an assassination attempt on the Klatchian ambassador, while Vimes tails a mysterious Klatchian known as 71-Hour Ahmed. And I believe this is the debut of Leonard of Quirm aka Totally-Not-da-Vinci, who creates a submarine that Vetinari, Colon, and Nobbs use to research the island and resolve the conflict behind the scenes, which involves a particularly hilarious misadventure with a set of entertainer costumes I won't spoil. This is also the Discworld that gives us the famous "the intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it" line.
South Park Season 10 (TV DVD)
Season 10 is a slight downgrade from Season 8, but it still delivers classics like the two-parter where South Park mocks both radical Muslim terrorists and Family Guy, "Go God Go" which says aboloshing religion wouldn't solve anything because people would just find new shit to fight over, and my personal favorite of the set, Satan throwing a Halloween party where he acts like a spoiled 16-year-old while the people of South Park experiment with summoning Biggie Smalls in a "Blood Mary" ritual. Granted, there isn't anything as delightfully fucked up as "Woodland Critter Christmas."
Oh, and the Warcraft episode. I first saw it on the South Park website years ago and can't tell you what I thought of it then, but all I could think while watching it now was "WARCRAFT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY." Even if you set aside all the inaccuracies with the real WoW and pretend this is an alternate reality WoW where low-level enemies don't stop giving experience after you reach a certain level and you can kill people of the same faction just by being a much higher level than them (was there some reason they didn't make the antagonist a Horde character?), wouldn't the antagonist still be gaining experience, from higher level areas as the boys, while they're off killing boars for 2 points a pop? "But WoW has a level cap!" Well, they sure didn't act like it did at the beginning of the episode. But unlike that episode of American Dad where the son's MMO character dies when his name is spoken backwards, I at least got the impression that the writers did play WoW (they got Blizzard to do the computer graphics, after all), but had to alter things to be accessible to people who don't play the game.
I understand that the one with Kyle's pre-school brother having an affair with his teacher was a mockery of the double-standard that a grown man having sexual relations with a young girl is a tragedy while an attractive woman having an affair with a young boy is considered "hot", but something about the execution was just... off to me. I think it's because they chose too young and whiny a boy to tell their story with and the message was lost in my desire to drop-kick the kid.
But on the other hand, the bad episodes are really bad. The episode with Oprah Winfrey's vagina becoming angry because she doesn't masturbate anymore (yes, that is actually a storyline somebody wrote) was almost unwatchable. The one with the Dog Whisperer was one of those episodes where a character's flaw gets cranked up to 11, in this case Cartman's sociopathy, which got infuriating without the other three kids around to keep it in check. While I'm sure climate change deniers jerk themselves off while watching "Manbearpig", anyone else is probably going to find it irritating. And the set leaves a foul final impression with the episode about Stan coaching a pee-wee hockey team. Maybe they were trying mock the feel-good underdog-wins-the-day sport movies, but that was way too cruel to be funny.
Final Fantasy X (Playstation 2)
Controversial opinion time: this might be my favorite of the 3D Final Fantasys I've played so far (I'm not setting that in stone because I played VII so long ago that I don't remember how it compares). Maybe it's just because I went in with basement-level expectations, but I left this game thinking "Huh, that was actually pretty okay."
Okay, the orb puzzles can go join the phone interruptions in Undertale's fire area in Hell, the encounter rate is a bit of a pisser, and most of the game is running down linear paths with a swinging camera that kept making Tidus turn on his heels like he just walked in on two Tonberries making out. And yeah, the voice acting. While it didn't make me want to key my ear canals, there was a lot of room for improvement and I can understand people having high standards for Final Fantasy; I kept expecting Yuna to end her sentences with "Um, I guess...? I dunno," Auron's VA seems to have trouble with emotions other than "stoic reservation", and maybe it's just because of who his actor is but Wakka sounds like a rejected Futurama incidental. Still, for all the (not undeserved) shit for his voice Tidus gets at least his actor seemed to be into it.
And the soundtrack is kind of weak for a Final Fantasy. It's grown on me a bit since I got the soundtrack, but only a handful of songs stood out to me while playing like "People of the North Pole" and "A Dream That Will End Sometime." And while nothing is as awful as that fucking Fossil Roo song in IX that sounded like a guy belching while slamming his butt on a piano, there's one late-game dungeon where the music is just a few seconds of percussion that even plays through the fights that got really maddening after a while, and the song during the fight with Braska's Final Aeon sounds like it's being sung by a chain-smoking gravel pit. Some songs seem to do weird shit for no reason, like going out of tune or off on tangents with no segues, or that beeping that derails "Auron's Theme". "Seymour Battle" is half a good song and half audial gibberish. And I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is the first Final Fantasy where half the soundtrack is different ways of playing the same song.
But Final Fantasy X shines with its fun battle system based around switching characters in-battle to counter specific threats (which is something I wish RPGs had figured out earlier along with how annoying it was to tie up one of the party slots with the main character, then dump six or seven other characters on the player. This always led to me picking two or three characters and using them for the whole game while the rest gather dust) and using a list of turn orders to plan your moves, and pairs it up with lots of cool boss battles to take advantage of it. Like, I'd be fuming over a stupid puzzle based around lighting up Tetris blocks on the floor, and then the game would toss me into a boss fight based around moving your characters around six platforms to avoid a OHKO explosion attack and setting up a tank to point the boss away from the others for when it counterattacks (is that the WoW player in me talking there?) and my rage would disperse. Other highlights include a witch where you have to balance surviving the Zombie status and using it to survive, a couple of fights on the deck of the airship where you have to factor Cid moving the ship into the equation, and one where you have to spin a set of dials on the field to control the boss' strengths and weaknesses.
My first reaction to the Sphere Grid was "Why is this a thing?", but it gets kind of fun late in the game when you get to send characters through each other's builds and find game-breaking combinations. Although it seems like if you spent too much time on it, you'd just end up homogenizing the characters.
And if Auron isn't the greatest thing to come out of a 3D Final Fantasy (and that's a big "if") then he's second only to VII's Cid, and his part of the ending broke my heart harder than anything in any other Final Fantasy, 2D or 3D; the only moment that even comes close is Zack's death in Crisis Core prior to Cloud ruining the mood by wailing like a little bitch.
I also found FFX's story to be the most penetrable of the four mainline 3D games. Sure, that's like when I say Destiny Deoxys was the least horrible Pokemon movie, but unlike Sephiroth Clones, Time Compression, and whatever the hell was going on in IX I could mostly follow X based on its own rules... although when "the main character is the dream a thousand-year-old city, and was raised by a dead ronin after his father got turned into a kaiju" is considered grounded by your series' standards, you might want to have a long, hard think about what you're doing.
FFX is also well known for having a final boss that's impossible to lose to unless you actively sabotage yourself, but eh, I wasn't that bothered by it. I saw it more as a big emotional moment in the vein of Mother Brain in Super Metroid, Giygas in Earthbound, or Asriel in Undertale's pacifist route. Maybe even the Ouroboros in Xenogears, as it and Deus have a similar relationship as Yu Yevon and Braska's Final Aeon.
And for whatever it's worth, I didn't play a single Blitzball game after the mandatory one at the beginning of the game.
I only got Yuna and Auron's best weapons because they didn't involve spending hours playing aqua soccer, racing chocobos, and dodging 200 randomly spawning hazards in one of the game's areas (who the fuck came up with that and why did nobody else on the development team slap them??). That... might have been a mistake. With the Masamune and Quick Hit, Auron ripped apart Braska's Final Aeon before it got two attacks off. He did the same to Omega Weapon and took out Ultima Weapon before it did anything.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXXII (TV DVD)
Volume 32 finally completes the set of Hercules movies covered by MST3K, and while I'll take Hercules Against the Moon Men over it, it's by far the most enjoyable feature on the set. Space Travelers is only remarkable in that the episode guide calls it the first film MST3K featured that had an actual budget, and San Francisco International, a spliced pilot of some 70s TV show that only lasted six episodes, was almost too tedious for MST3K to work with.
Funnily enough, I thought Radar Secret Service was going to be the dud of the set, but it wound up being the second funniest (though considering I barely remember Space Travelers and San Fancisco almost put me to sleep, take that with a pillar of salt). It plays like that Batman serial RiffTrax covered a little while back crossed with radar porn, if you can imagine such a thing existing.